Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources & Security - Faculty of Law


There currently is a breadth of literature outlining and justifying international best practices for regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) to ensure that highly migratory and shared fish stocks under their purview, such as tuna, are effectively conserved and managed. Most of this literature has noted the link between quality data and the formulation of scientific advice, which subsequently underpins the development and implementation of fishery conservation and management measures. However, the literature to date has not evaluated how tuna RFMOs can effectively balance the diverse capabilities of their members, including developing States, so that the best quality data can support scientific analyses on impacts of fishing. This thesis examines and analyses the implementation of international legal requirements, and application of international best practices, for fisheries data by a relatively young tuna RFMO: the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPFC). The WCPFC was established following the adoption of the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks and is responsible for ensuring the long-term conservation and sustainable use of 50% of current global principal market tuna catch. Approximately 20% of global tuna resources are taken in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Pacific Islands States, and Pacific Island States therefore have a vested interest in ensuring that the best quality fisheries data underpins scientific advice. This thesis reviews the innovative and collective approaches established by Pacific Island States and their contribution towards WCPFC data practices. Also examined are the future implications of WCPFC data practices for Pacific Island States. International law requires States to provide fisheries data to tuna RFMOs. Scientific analyses of impacts of fishing require fisheries data covering characteristics of tuna and the surrounding ecosystem, the catch and effort of the fisheries, the characteristics of the fisheries themselves and their response to fishing. Consistent with a sustainable and responsible approach to fisheries management, data should also cover species that are not targeted but may be impacted on by the fisheries, or that are dependent on or found in association with tunas. To ensure the best quality data can support scientific analyses on impacts of fishing, tuna RFMOs need: to establish: databases to compile these data; to establish integrated data verification schemes to check that data is complete and accurate; and arrangements to share fisheries data must include the requirement to maintain confidentiality. At the global level, data on tuna fisheries is compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and institutional arrangements have been established to cross-check with data compiled at the regional level by tuna RFMOs. Pacific Island States have established practices to collect and share data on fishing activities in their EEZ, data needed to support stock assessment, vessel and gear information, and data on non-target species. These same data collection practices for Pacific Island States have formed the foundation of WCPFC data practices. The use of existing regional arrangements and standards has enabled the WCPFC to meet international legal requirements and to make significant progress towards achieving international recommended best practices for tuna RFMOs. However, there are gaps in the implementation of data requirements by WCPFC members, and progress can be made to further improve the quality of data, notably more complete coverage and improved accuracy. This thesis concludes that if the WCPFC is to receive the best quality data, it is contingent on: first, coastal States, particularly Pacific Island States, continuing to take responsibility for leading the establishment and implementation of effective WCPFC data practices; second, the WCPFC establish a process to regularly assess WCPFC members data provision to the WCPFC; and third, the WCPFC continue progress to establish an integrated WCPFC verification scheme. Additionally, the Joint Tuna RFMO process could also be used to maintain pressure for the WCPFC to adopt best practice standards for tuna RFMOs. Ultimately, the achievement of long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna fisheries in the western and central Pacific Ocean will depend on sufficient political will by all WCPFC members to heed scientific advice, and take effective conservation and management action in accordance with the precautionary approach.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.